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A Dream of Spring- Defense Edition

Looking back at which players became available on defense during the spring portal session last year

NCAA Football: Washington at Southern California Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back as we now look back on which players became available in the portal last spring on the defensive side of the ball to inform what may realistically be out there for Washington in a few months. I recommend going back to read part one on the offense if you’re confused about transfer grades and productivity scores which will get mentioned a lot.

Defensive Line

# of players available in spring with 70+ transfer grades: 2

# of players who had 40+ productivity score at P5 level: 1

It’s not a shock that there is very high demand and very low supply for quality interior defensive linemen. The Huskies lost Ale, Tuitele, and Letuligasenoa this offseason and have only replaced them with one portal addition so far. Another would be a huge help.

That might be tough though. There were 45 DL to enter the portal in the spring and 21 of them wound up at P5 schools.

There was only one clear cut premium DT available in the portal though and it was Georgia’s Bear Alexander who went to USC. He had an 86.5 transfer grade in my system and was one of the best 15 overall players in the portal at any point last year. The USC defense tanked but it was hard to blame Alexander who was one of the national leaders in QB pressures for an interior DL and led the way with a 54.2 productivity score from the spring entrants.

The only other one to finish with above a 70 transfer grade was Ole Miss’ Tywone Malone who went to Ohio State and hardly saw the field. Next on the list was Trill Carter who transferred to Texas and played well but didn’t start because he played behind the All-American duo of Byron Murphy and T’Vondre Sweat.

Of my top-ten new DTs to enter the portal in the spring, 9 of them ended up in either the new SEC, USC, Ohio State, Penn State, or Louisville. There was one player that went to South Florida but then played 0 snaps this year so maybe the market evaluated him better than my rankings did.

Only 4 players in the end started more than half the games for their teams at any level with Alexander being joined by players at South Florida, Memphis, and Washington State. There were some quality depth pieces out there (3 players played 250+ snaps with a 75+ PFF grade in the P5) but an absolute game-wrecker is unrealistic.

Edge Rusher

# of players available in spring with 70+ transfer grades: 3

# of players who had 40+ productivity score at P5 level: 3

Washington might be able to stand pat here depending on how the next few weeks shake out. The Huskies added Russell Davis II from Arizona and are favored to also bring in Isaiah Ward who started over him this year. That combo plus Durfee becoming fully eligible and internal development for others should help make up for the loss of Trice, ZTF, and SAA.

There were a decent number of quality players available in the spring though at this spot. My 2nd highest rated spring Edge transfer Antwaun Powell-Ryland (73.0 grade) went from Florida to Virginia Tech and started every game with 10 sacks for a 54.9 productivity score. Jalen McLeod (69.3 grade) wasn’t far behind him coming from Appalachian State to Auburn where he started 11 games and had 7 sacks with a PFF grade over 80.

In addition to Powell-Ryland, the other 2 players who had a 70+ grade to enter from the spring both went to Colorado and one was familiar to Husky fans: Sav’ell Smalls. Colorado is a bit of a unique situation because they added 5 new Edge players in the spring meaning it was impossible that all of them would see the field. Smalls ended up close to the low man on the totem pole though only playing 39 snaps with 0 sacks (he announced today that he’s switching to tight end). My top rated Edge from the spring was Derrick McLendon leaving Florida State to join Deion who played 400+ snaps but only had 2 sacks.

It’s possible to come out of the spring with a complete difference making pass rusher. There probably are only going to be one to two of those though but if you’re looking for someone to get you something like 4 sacks instead then there will probably be 6-7 of those guys at the P5 level.

Linebacker

# of players available in spring with 70+ transfer grades: 1

# of players who had 40+ productivity score at P5 level: 4

The Huskies already have brought in San Jose State LB transfer Bryun Parham in the last week so they don’t absolute need more instant starter-level talent. Although given the numbers it would be nice to maybe add one more depth piece who can develop more in future years.

My rankings only saw one top shelf linebacker enter the portal last spring with Jaheim Thomas (77.8 grade) jumping from Cincinnati to Arkansas. He eclipsed the 40 productivity score mark starting 10 games for the Razorbacks with 87 tackles and 5 sacks.

There were also another 4 linebackers with transfer grades in the 60-70 range and all of them ended up at P5 programs. That group was extremely hit or miss though. Three of them had been mid four-star recruits out of high school and none of those ended up playing more than 30 defensive snaps this fall. The other transferred up from Idaho (Paul Moala) and finished with the highest productivity score of any linebacker at Georgia Tech.

Six spring transfers ended up starting at least 6 games at the P5 level this past fall and two were the ones mentioned with 60+ transfer grades while two others were in the low 40’s. So there was wide variation but they’re out there if a coach can identify a good fit for their system.

Cornerback

# of players available in spring with 70+ transfer grades: 8

# of players who had 40+ productivity score at P5 level: 7

Corner may have been the most loaded position last spring with 8 players over a 70 transfer grade and another 8 in the 60-70 bucket. And yet it might be the position with the least need for the Huskies even though they lost 2 starters to the portal. They’ve brought in both Ephesians Prysock and Jordan Shaw from the portal who have a good shot to be pretty close to as good as the departing Jabbar Muhammad and Meesh Powell. Throw in Elijah Jackson, Davon Banks, and Thad Dixon (at least for the moment) and that’s a solid core at that spot.

I only had one player with a transfer grade better than 80 at the CB position last spring. But there were extenuating circumstances as Notre Dame’s Lorenzo Styles transferred to Ohio State but switched positions from WR to CB and his stats in the formula came on offense. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle that one and sure enough he played 3 snaps this year. There probably needs to be some kind of clause for players switching from offense to defense or vice versa.

Of the 16 CBs (including Styles) to have a 60+ transfer grade, all but one ended up at a P5 program. Six of them started at least half of their team’s games including three that had elite production scores of 60+ for Miami, Cal, and Michigan.

Safety

# of players available in spring with 70+ transfer grades: 2

# of players who had 40+ productivity score at P5 level: 3

Washington is adding a ton of bodies that seem right for a nickel corner or safety spot in the 2024 class but they’re still light on depth among upper classmen so they’d probably like to add someone here.

Neither of my top-rated safeties from last spring ended up doing all that much in the fall. Both with transfer grades of 70+ went to a P5 school in the state of Florida from other P5 programs and started only 1 game each. Not great for my rankings.

But the 3 players that finished with the highest production scores all had 60+ transfer grades. Kameron Pedescleaux (67.1 grade) stayed in-state transferring from Louisiana to Tulane and started 14 games to put up elite numbers of 65 tackles, 2 INTs, and 11 PBUs for an 87.0 production score. He replaced Andre Sam (64.4 grade) who also stayed in-state going from Tulane to LSU with 76 tackles and 3 INTs for a struggling Tigers defense. In between them was Anthony Wilson (60.1 grade) transferring from Georgia Southern to West Virginia and starting 13 games.

The one big swing and a miss for the rankings was Jaylen Key who upgraded from UAB to Alabama and only had a 46.3 transfer grade but started 12 games for the Tide on the way to a 59.9 production score and a CFP berth. Two other players had 54+ production scores but they came at the FCS level.

There ended up being a large gap with those 6 players of nearly 55 or over and then no one else above 36 in production score. Put it all together and it’s not impossible to find a high performing safety in the spring portal but it is probably going to involve trying to get a starter to jump from the Sun Belt or the American and fly out to the Pacific Northwest which may not be the easiest task.